Too late for sentiment in Manning decision

February, 8, 2012
2/08/12
9:20
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Gene Wojciechowski does a nice job in this piece of recounting Joe Montana’s separation from the 49ers and comparing it to what’s unfolding for Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts.
“NFL history repeats itself. The circumstances aren't exactly the same, but they're similar enough. Bottom line: Divorce proceedings between a generational player and the franchise he helped make famous are never easy. ‘It was horribly difficult,’ (Niners team president Carmen) Policy said the other day by phone, describing Montana's departure from the 49ers in 1993. ‘At that time he had won four Super Bowls. He was the quintessential comeback kid. He was so revered in the community, so loved in the locker room.
[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Frederick BreedonIt's difficult to miss all the signs that point to the Colts separating from QB Peyton Manning.
"In a strong, strong way there are similarities in terms of what Peyton Manning has done for that franchise in Indianapolis. You almost can't think of the franchise without thinking of Peyton Manning. … To separate is really, really difficult and heart wrenching."

But I have to disagree with Wojciechowski’s conclusion. He believes the Colts should do whatever necessary to hold on to Manning.
“Maybe you push back the March 8 due date on Manning's $28 million option bonus. Maybe you say, ‘I want you to begin and end your career wearing the horseshoe, but you've got to work with me on this $28 mil. Can we restructure it?’

“Maybe you tell him, ‘Come back, play another year, help mentor (Andrew) Luck or RG3 and then we'll put together an organizational golden parachute for you. And if you play like pre-neck surgery Peyton, then we'll re-up you for another year or you go somewhere as a free agent.’

“Professional. Reasonable. Logical.”

But not feasible.

The NFLPA tells me the first renegotiated of a contract can take place at any time. Then the second cannot happen within a year if it causes a salary increase over the first redo.

So Manning's contract isn’t the big issue, actually.

The issue is every move the Colts have made since the end of the season has been intended to set up a fresh start and a new era. And as much as the Colts love Manning and appreciate his work for them, finding a way to keep him on a team that’s going to undergo a major rebuild under a new GM with a new coach and staff and with the No. 1 pick coming to town is impractical.

It’s too late to take the path Woj wants, and while taking it is in some way the noble thing to do to preserve what’s been a beautiful thing, it’s not the practical thing to do for the long-term health of the franchise.

It’s in no way easy. It’s incredibly emotional for all parties involved.

The odds that all these factors would arrive at the same time were incredibly low: Manning’s continued uncertain health; the secondary bonus coming due that triggers the remainder of his contract; the Colts’ terrible season without him that resulted in the No. 1 pick; the availability of Luck with that pick; Irsay’s frustration with Bill Polian and Chris Polian coming off that failed season that led to their dismissals; the hiring of Ryan Grigson as the new GM; the removal of Jim Caldwell; the hiring of Chuck Pagano as the new coach; looming decisions on three old-guard guys heading to free agency -- center Jeff Saturday, receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis.

If Irsay had decided to attempt to load up for a three-season push for another Super Bowl with Manning, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. But he either had to go all-in in such fashion, or bail and start anew.

He’s already well down the path to the second strategy. And the Colts brass needs to line up with the approach Policy took with Montana.

There is a Jim Irsay-Manning meeting looming. There is a lot of talk about a decision still to be made. It's hard for me to imagine Irsay hasn't already made it and we aren't just waiting for it to play out.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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